High-End Wines Had Great First Quarter

Domestic wines hottest at $20-plus, imports at $15-$19

by Jim Gordon
siri symphonyiri wine sales
San Rafael, Calif.—Sales of domestic table wines at premium price segments grew quickly in the first quarter of 2012 at major food and drug stores. Wines at $20-plus were the hottest, growing 24% in dollars over the same period in 2011, according to Symphony IRI. Domestic wines priced $15-$19.99 jumped 16%, and those at $11-$14.99 rose 9%.

Imports own a much smaller share of the off-premise market than domestic wines—21% vs. 79%—but in the high-priced segments, imports grew at comparable rates during the first quarter. SIRI, a Chicago-based market-research firm, reported that through March 18 the $15-$19.99 price point was the fastest growing for imports, at 22%.

High-priced Cabernet up 28%
siri symphonyiri wine sales
Cabernet Sauvignon was the biggest selling red varietal wine in all three of the top price segments. The $20-plus category saw the fastest growth for the quarter at 28%. Chardonnay dominated sales totals in the $11-$14.99 range but saw its fastest growth of 19% at $20-plus.

Pinot Noir grew well in all three top brackets and led major varietals at $20-plus with 32% more sales than a year ago. It finished third behind Cabernet and Chardonnay in sales totals with nearly $6 million at the major U.S. food and drug stores where SIRI analyzes check stand scan data.

The picture was not so bright in the largest price segment for both imports and domestics: $5-$7.99. This segment was nearly flat for domestic wines, with just 1% growth in the first quarter. Imports in this price range dropped in sales by 7%. The import category as a whole lost 1% in the first quarter.

Smaller was better
Another way to look at the sales situation is by packaging format. While overall sales of domestic table wine grew at 7% in the four weeks ending March 18, the growth rate of domestic varietal table wine in 750ml packages was higher, at 9%.

Varietal wine in 750ml bottles accounted for $245 million of the domestic category’s total $371 million sales over four weeks. The next-largest package type in dollars was varietal wine in 1.5L formats, with $59 million in sales and an essentially flat growth rate of 0.4%, which dragged down overall growth.

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